September 24, 2011

TV: Person of Interest (CBS, Thu 9)

Michael Emerson is the mysterious Mr. Finch, who recruits the equally mysterious Mr. Reese (Jim Caviezel) to be his partner in crime fighting. It seems that Finch was the developer of the computer system the government uses to keep an eye on all of us in this post-9/11 world, and he left himself a small backdoor into the system, through which it spits out to him the Social Security numbers of people who are soon to be involved in various crimes. Nothing that the feds would be interested in, like terrorist attacks -- more relatively small stuff like kidnapping and murders.

But Finch doesn't know whether the people he's given are going to be victims or perpetrators, and he needs someone to do the investigate legwork for him if these crimes are going to be stopped. That's where Reese comes in; he's a Special Forces vet with dark secrets in his past that have left him extremely reluctant to kill (a lot of people get shot in the leg in this show).

The show suffers from one fairly obvious problem -- if we aren't allowed to know, for dramatic purposes, whether our persons of interest are victims or criminals, then we spend most of the show trying to care about people we aren't being told enough about to make us care.

But even worse, it suffers from a serious talent imbalance in its leading men. Michael Emerson is a fine actor, and well cast in the role of the secretive recluse. But he's at his best when he has an equally strong co-star to play off -- think of Camryn Manheim in The Practice or Terry O'Quinn in Lost -- and Jim Caviezel simply isn't up to the task. Caviezel has chosen to play the entire role in a hushed whisper that sounds like an audition to be Christian Bale's Batman understudy, and he projects very little personality. You can sort of see what he's trying to do, going for the whole "I'm so wounded that I don't let anyone in" thing, but all he's accomplishing is "I'm a sullen little prick."

Love Emerson, hate Caviezel, and the story itself isn't interesting enough to sway the difference in the show's favor.

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